Alissa Hamilton

Alissa Hamilton Is What She Eats: Oranges, Straight Up

In the feature "You Are What You Eat" I talk to Toronto personalities, musicians, artists and other interesting folks about where, how and what they eat. After all, food is the window to the soul.

In this installment, I caught up with Toronto academic, lawyer, and author Alissa Hamilton as she launched her new book Squeezed: What You Don't Know About Orange Juice.

blogTO: What is your favourite breakfast spot in the city?

Alissa Hamilton: When I was little, chronologically speaking, my family used to go to the Bagel King on Eglinton. I loved their cottage cheese omelet. I haven't gone out for breakfast in ages but one of these days I'll have to go to Aunties and Uncles down the street, if only to see their one-of-a-kind juicer, which I hear they found at a garage sale. Their orange juice is truly fresh squeezed.

What's your most guilty food pleasure?

Cocoa nibs. Their buttery bitterness is addictive.

What's one warm & fuzzy and one really bad food memory from childhood?

I have a crazy memory when it comes to food. If I went out to dinner with you I could tell you in a year what both of us had. So you can imagine how hard it is for me to choose one memory, especially from the former category. Warm and fuzzy would have to be my mum's homemade granola with yogurt and a "honey spoon." The honey was from my uncle's farm. The best was when the honey crystallized so it would stick to the spoon and I could make it last to the end. I always save best for last.

Really bad? My grade six class spent the night at a science camp on Centre Island. We had hamburgers for dinner and they were square and green inside.

What would you request as your last meal?

I'd probably want comfort food, which for me is oatmeal, slow cooked with water so the cream rises to the top.

Are you a coffee drinker? If so, how many cups a day and what's your go-to coffee joint?

Although I like the taste I don't drink coffee, never did.

Do you crave salty or sweet?

Neither. A few years ago a psychologist who studies taste diagnosed me as a "super taster." She dyed my tongue blue so she could see the concentration of taste buds and then gave me a piece of cardboard with a drug on it that is tasteless to most but was extremely bitter to me. Apparently salt is a zillion times saltier and sweet a zillion times sweeter to me. I do crave vegetables.

Do you cook?

I love to cook. Fennel seeds (sometimes toasted), orange and lemon zest, mint, lemon juice, and hot pepper (flakes or fresh) are my standbys.

If I were a food, I would be a BLANK because BLANK.

I'd be an apple because apples are seductive yet substantial: they possess all that knowledge, which if used right must be able to reverse the world's problems. I'd be a Spy. They're especially sharp.

Weirdest thing you've ever eaten?

That would be a toss-up between dried worms (from a street market in Zimbabwe) and termites (live from a tree in a rainforest in Belize). The former tasted how they looked and smelled: not good. The latter tasted surprisingly like carrots. Not the sugary sweet kind you buy in the store. They had that carrot taste that carrots have when they come right from the ground. The flavor was so strong it lingered all day.

What's your favourite meal of the day? Why?

Dinner, even if it's breakfast food, which it sometimes is. I don't like to eat on the run, or before there's something pressing to get done. At dinner I can relax and focus on what I'm eating. It's my favourite time of day.

What's your ultimate food/beverage and book pairing?

Sliced green mango with lime and chili and One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Do you have cookbooks? If so what's your favourite/go-to?

I don't have any but if I ever needed one my dad kept all of my mum's, and she collected quite a library over the years. Alice Waters would be my go-to. She may come across as elitist but her approach to food is democratic. Her recipes are not about her but the ingredients. She gives them a platform to speak for themselves.

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